By Geoff Fein

Lockheed Martin [LMT] last week received a $171.8 million low-rate initial production (LRIP) contract from Northrop Grumman [NOC] for four AN/APY-9 Airborne Early Warning (AEW) radar systems for the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye, according to Lockheed Martin.

Unlike the APS-145 currently in use aboard the E-2C Hawkeye, the APY-9 will be required to operate over land, Doug Reep, Lockheed Martin program management director for AEW radar, told Defense Daily recently.

“When we talk about the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye, and, in particular, when we talk about the APY-9 radar that we’ve designed, are building now, and are in the initial phase of production, we specifically designed it to be able to work close into shore in the littoral and over land,” he said.

A lot of Lockheed Martin’s advanced processing technology where they have exploited the advanced computing power that the company has is specifically to enable the radar to perform in that tougher more challenging environment, Reep added.

“When I think about the E-2D in terms of what it brings to our Navy customer, it brings what I heard our customers describe as ‘eye watering capability,'” Reep said. “[It brings] the ability to see farther, the ability to see targets over land that would have been very, very hard for them to discern with prior systems, the ability to take on new cruise missile threats from adversaries…it is much more capable in those areas.”

The APS-145, which Reep said is a very capable radar, was designed for use in the Cold War.

“Specifically to provide a forward air picture for fleet defense. Very specifically to make sure the carrier battle groups would be well protected against, at that time, the Soviet threat,” he said.

The changing world, however, has demanded the Navy bring the E-2Cs in close to shore and, most recently, over land, Reep noted. “That’s an area the original radars weren’t designed to cover, and it’s very much a tough mission for an airborne radar to be able to sort all of the contacts that would be of interest, whether they would be friendly planes or unfriendly planes, or things on the ground,” he said. “It’s a much tougher mission.”

The AN/APY-9 radar features both a solid-state transmitter with higher power than its predecessor for extended range, as well as digital receivers to increase sensitivity. The UHF radar can “see” smaller targets–and more of them–at a greater range, particularly in coastal regions and over land. Its electronically scanned array provides critically important, continuous 360-degree coverage. As a new capability, flight operators also can now focus the radar on select areas of interest, according to a company statement.

Lockheed Martin has two engineering-development models and four pre-production radar systems currently in flight and qualification testing with the Navy. The company just completed its third production system under the pilot production contract, Reep added. “Two are delivered; the third will be delivered shortly.

“That will get us up to five aircraft. The two SDD (system, design and development) that are in flight test, and three pilot aircraft,” he said. “By the way, Northrop Grumman flew aircraft 3, the first of the pilot production aircraft, [three] weeks ago and had successful radar flights with it [two weeks ago].”

The $171.8 million contract covers the first two blocks of LRIP. An additional four systems that will take Lockheed Martin from aircraft five through nine. “In addition, we are currently working on the proposal for LRIP lots 3 and 4 and that will be an additional 10 aircraft which we expect to be building over the next three to four years,” Reep said.

Lockheed Martin will produce AN/APY-9 radars to equip all 75 planned Navy E-2D Advanced. The company, along with E-2D prime contractor Northrop Grumman, is also eyeing opportunities for foreign military sales of the Advanced Hawkeye and APY-9 radar, Reep added.”We are working with the prime and the Navy in pursuit of an opportunity in UAE. We expect UAE to make a selection decision on their aircraft of choice for their needs shortly,” he said.